Pedro Fernández de Quirós

Pedro Fernández de Quirós

Pedro Fernandes de Queirós (1563 - 1615) was a Portuguese-born navigator and explorer, more commonly known by the Castilian spelling Pedro Fernández de Quirós. [ Queirós, is the original Portuguese spelling of his name. Quirós, however, was the Castilian spelling that he used all his adult life ] He is best known for involvement with Spanish voyages of discovery in the Pacific Ocean, in particular the 1595-1596 voyage of Alvaro de Mendaña de Neira, and for leading a 1605-1606 expedition which crossed the Pacific in search of Terra Australis.

Early life

Quirós was born in Évora, Portugal in 1563. As a young man he entered Spanish service and became an experienced seaman and navigator. In April 1595 he joined Álvaro de Mendaña de Neira on his voyage to colonise the Solomon Islands, serving as pilot. After Mendaña’s death in October 1595 he is credited with taking command and saving the only remaining ship of the expedition, arriving in the Philippines in February 1596. Australian Dictionary of Biography online [] ]

The Search for Terra Australis

In 1598 Quirós returned to Spain and petitioned King Philip III to support another voyage into the Pacific. A devout Catholic, Quirós also visited Rome in 1600, where he obtained the support of the Pope, Clement VIII, for further explorations. He greatly impressed the Spanish Ambassador in Rome, the Duke of Sesa, who described him as a “man of good judgement, experienced in his profession, hard working, quiet and disinterested.” While in Rome Quirós also first wrote his "Treatise on Navigation" as a letter to the king, further reinforcing his reputation as a navigator. In March 1603 Quirós was finally authorized to return to Peru to establish another expedition, with the intention of finding Terra Australis, the mythical "great south land," and claiming it for Spain and the Church. Quirós's party of 160 men on three ships, "San Pedro y San Pablo" (150 tons), "San Pedro" (120 tons) and the tender (or launch) "Los Tres Reyes" left Callao on 21 December 1605. [ Estensen, M. (2006) "Terra Australia Incognita; The Spanish Quest for the Great South Land" p.111-113. Allen & Unwin, Australia ISBN 978 1741750546 ]

In May 1606 the expedition reached the islands later called the New Hebrides and now the independent nation of Vanuatu. Quirós landed on a large island which he took to be part of the southern continent, and named it "La Austrialia [ No, not a typo! See accounts of the voyage cited, eg Estensen, M (2006) ] del Espiritu Santo" (The Austrian Land of the Holy Spirit), for King Philip III, who was of Austrian descent. The island is still called Espiritu Santo. Here he stated his intention to establish a colony, to be called Nova Jerusalem.

Quirós's religious fervour found expression with the founding of a new Order of Chivalry, the Knights of the Holy Ghost. The Order’s purpose was to protect the new colony. However, within weeks the idea of a colony was abandoned due to the hostility of the Ni-Vanuatu and to disagreements among the crew.

After six weeks Quirós’ ships put to sea to explore the coastline. On the night of June 11, 1606 Quirós in the "San Pedro y San Pablo" became separated from the other ships in bad weather and was unable (or so he later said) to return to safe anchorage at Espiritu Santo. He then sailed to Acapulco in Mexico, where he arrived in November 1606. In the account of Diego de Prado y Tovar, which is highly critical of Quirós, mutiny and poor leadership is given as the reason for Quirós’ disappearance. Prado's Account can be read online [] ]

Two weeks later, his second-in-command, Luis Váez de Torres, after searching in vain for Quirós and assuming his ship was wrecked, left Espiritu Santo. Torres successfully reached Manila in May 1607, charting the southern coastline of New Guinea on the way and in doing so sailing through the strait that now bears his name.

Quirós in later life

Quirós returned to Madrid in 1607. Regarded as a crank, he spent the next seven years writing numerous accounts of his voyage and begging King Philip III for money for a new voyage. He was finally despatched to Peru with letters of support, but the king had no real intention of funding another expedition. Quirós died on the way, in Panama, in 1615. He had married Dona Ana Chacon of Madrid in 1589, who bore him one son and one daughter.

Accounts of Quirós' Voyage

There are a number of documents describing the Queirós – Torres voyages still in existence. Most significant are
* Quiros’ many subsequent Memorials to the King Philip III regarding the voyage, A copy at the Library of Congress can be read online [] ]
* Torres brief account to the king (1607), [ See Chapter XII of Collingridge,G.(1895) "The First Discovery of Australia", for part of Torres account at [] A longer translation is included in his 1895 book "The Discovery of Australia", Golden Press reprint, 1983. ISBN 085558 9566 ]
* Prado’s narrative "Relacion Sumaria" (first written in 1608) and 4 charts of New Guinea [ For colour photos of the charts, see Hilder, B.(1980) "The Voyage of Torres" University of Queensland Press, St. Lucia, ISBN 07022 1275x. Also see Collingridge’s The "First Discovery of Australia", 1895, which includes Collingridge’s own copies of three of the charts [] The charts are the coloured maps 5,6 and 9.(Map 9 is incorrectly titled “Moresby's Map of the Islands at the South-east end of New Guinea” . It is in fact based on Prado’s Mappa III - showing Orangerie Bay, New Guinea.) ]
* Juan Luis Arias de Loyola’s memorial to King Philip IV (written about 1630 and based on discussions between Queirós and Loyola ) [Hilder, B (1980) p.175-176 ]

Most documents of Luis Váez de Torres's discoveries were not published but filed away in Spanish archives, including Prado’s lengthy account and accompanying charts.

1617 may be the date of the first English translation of one of Quirós’ memorials, as "Terra Australis Incognita", or "A New Southerne Discoverie". [ The La Trobe Library of Victoria lists a copy of this as one of its rare books [] ] A short account of Quirós’ voyage and discoveries was published in English by Samuel Purchas in 1625 in "Haklvytvs posthumus", or, "Pvrchas his Pilg"rimes, vol. iv, p. 1422-1432. This account also appears to be based on a letter by Quirós to the King in 1610, the eighth on the matter.

Some time between 1762 and 1765, written accounts of the Torres expedition were seen by British Admiralty Hydrographer Alexander Dalrymple. Dalrymple provided a sketch map which included the Quirós -Torres voyages to Joseph Banks who undoubtedly passed this information to James Cook. [ Hilder, B (1980) p.31 ] [Estensen, M.(2006)p.222]

Theory that Quirós discovered Australia

In the 19th century some Australian Catholics, living under a Protestant ascendancy, claimed that Quirós had in fact discovered Australia, in advance of the Protestants Abel Tasman and James Cook. The Archbishop of Sydney from 1884 to 1911, Patrick Francis Moran, asserted this to be a fact, and it was taught in Catholic schools for many years [ Moran, cited in Richardson, W.A.R. (2006) "Was Australia charted before 1606?" p. 20. National Library of Australia ISBN 0642 276420] . He claimed that the real site of Quirós's New Jerusalem was near Gladstone in Queensland. [Cardinal Moran's "Discovery of Australia by de Queirós in the Year 1606" [] ] .

Quirós in modern literature

Building on this tradition, the Australian poet James McAuley (1917-76) wrote an epic called "Captain Quiros" (1964), in which he depicted Quirós as a martyr for the cause of Catholic Christian civilisation (although he did not repeat the claim that Quirós had discovered Australia). The heavily political overtones of the poem caused it to be coldly received at a time when much politics in Australia was still coloured by Catholic-Protestant sectarianism.

"Bitter indeed the chalice that he drank
For no man's pride accepts to cheap a rate
As not to call on Heaven to vindicate
His worth together with the cause he served."

(James McAuley, "Captain Quiros")

The Australian writer John Toohey published a novel, "Quiros", in 2002 [ "Quiros", Toohey, J. (2002) Duffy & Snellgrove; Potts Point, N.S.W, ISBN 1876631244] .


External links

* [ Diego de Prado y Tovar's account of the Queirós and Torres voyage, with English translation, at the State Library of New South Wales]
* [ "Discovery of Australia by de Queirós in the Year 1606" by Patrick F. Cardinal Moran, Archbishop of Sydney]
* [ Discoverer’s Website project]
* [ "Hakluytus Posthumus - Purchas his Pilgrimes Vol 4" by Samuel Purchas, Page 1432]
* [ "The First Discovery of Australia and New Guinea" by George Collingridge, Chapter XI]

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